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Wolf hunt stand-off in Sweden raises rural tensions

KARLSTAD -- Farmers and hunters in Sweden are crying foul over a wolf hunt ban which they say threatens their way of life and may lead to civil disobedience.

“I think we could live with some wolves, but not as many as there are now. They're getting too close to people,” Elsa Lund Magnussen told AFP at her small sheep farm and abattoir outside Karlstad in south-central Sweden.

She pointed through the driving snow to a wooded area a stone's throw from her traditional red wooden house and sheds.

“A wolf killed a moose calf just over there a week ago,” she said, shaking her head.

“When you know a wolf can turn up on your land anytime, it changes your whole quality of life. You don't dare let your dogs out in the yard ... and people say you need to take a rifle when you walk in the forest!”

Wolf hunting is a sensitive issue in Sweden, as in other European countries where the carnivores were re-introduced in recent decades and enjoy protected status under EU conservation laws.

The European Commission threatened the Nordic country with legal action in 2013 over a planned cull, later stopped by a Stockholm court.

Then the wolf conflict worsened in January when the court blocked another planned cull of 30 wolves following an appeal by environmental groups on the grounds that it violated EU law.

Now only strictly limited “protective hunts” are allowed in the event of wolves killing livestock or posing a clear threat.

'I'm not a wolf hater'

The ruling came just a month after the government unveiled a new wildlife policy allowing the wolf population to be culled down to 270 from the current level of about 400.

“Sweden has never had so many large predators as now,” Environment Minister Lena Ek said at the launch of the report, which said the country had a viable wolf population that needed curbing to “take into account people who live and work in areas with a concentration of predators.”

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